Our View: Flood concerns rising

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Editorial Board, May 2008 to August 2008

  • Bryna Larsen, publisher
  • Brent Boyer, editor
  • Mike Lawrence, city editor
  • Tom Ross, reporter
  • Eric Morris, community representative
  • Paul Draper, community representative

Contact the editorial board at (970) 871-4221 or editor@steamboatpilot.com. Would you like to be a member of the board? Fill out a letter of interest now.

Snowy winters don't always translate to spring floods, but it appears the cause-and-effect relationship might hold true this year.

Routt County Emergency Management Director Chuck Vale warned county commissioners Monday that local "high-water events" will almost certainly affect some residents. We hope Vale's warning doesn't come to fruition, but it serves as an important reminder to residents and business owners who could fall victim to fast-rising creeks and rivers during the next few weeks.

As of Monday, high country snowpack and water content at measuring sites around Steamboat Springs remained near or, in some cases, significantly above historic averages. A relatively cool April kept much of the lower-elevation snowpack in place, increasing the likelihood that runoffs from low and high elevations will overlap. Sustained rainfall would facilitate the melt-off while also adding additional water to the equation. The result could easily overwhelm area riverbanks.

While Vale was quick to point out that he doesn't expect local homes to float away, property damage is a very real possibility. Residents should begin acting now to make sure they don't become victims.

A logical first step is for residents to determine whether their home or business is in a floodplain. Visit the Federal Emergency Management Administration's mapping page at www.fema.gov/business/nfip/mscjumppage.shtm to search for copies of local floodplain maps. The site gives you the option to view the map on your computer monitor. Maps also can be purchased.

If you live or work in such an area, be prepared to help yourself. Local governments have made it clear that their No. 1 priority during high-water events is to first protect public infrastructure. Accordingly, residents should:

- Prepare an evacuation plan from their home or business

- Consider purchasing flood insurance

- Make a list of personal property to assist with insurance claims

- Prepare an emergency kit for your home, car and workplace, including a flashlight with batteries, nonperishable food, bottled water and a first aid kit

- Keep important papers in watertight containers, and keep records of valuables in a safe place where water isn't likely to reach

- Establish a contact person for your family members to reach in the event of a flood

- Teach children about high-water safety, and keep children and pets away from creeks and rivers during spring runoff

If you live or work in a high-risk flood area, you might consider building a levee with sandbags. Sandbags are available locally, and your town or city government may provide them at no cost. When trying to determine how much time and sand it will take to build a protective barricade, consider that a levee 20 feet long and 1 foot high requires 7 cubic yards of sand and 100 sandbags. Two people can fill and place 100 sandbags in approximately one hour.

Other safety concerns arise during the annual spring runoff, particularly drowning danger. Children and pets should be kept away from creek beds and riverbanks. Motorists shouldn't attempt to drive through flooded roadways, as it takes only 2 feet of water to carry away most vehicles.

Finally, consult with local agencies such as Routt County Emergency Management Services (870-5551) for more information. Vale has prepared a high water preparedness guide available in his department's first-floor office in the Routt County Courthouse Annex on Sixth Street.

Spring flooding constitutes a threat to public safety and personal property. Take the necessary steps to minimize its impact on your life.

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